(Geneva, 6 February 2012)

Mr. Secretary General, Dr. Supachai,
Mr. Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Draganov,
Mr. Martin Khor,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I wish to thank Dr. Supachai and Mr. Khor for sharing their thoughts with us. We will continue to rely on them and their respective institutions for continued support as we face the increasingly complex challenges ahead. In particular, I look to the support of Mr. Miguel Bautista and his team. I have worked with them when I was Chairman of the Asian Group and the President of the Trade and Development Board, and I count on their professionalism, knowledge, and experience in the year ahead. I wish also to have a close coordination with the Secretary of TDB, Mrs. Sahami and her team.

Dear Colleagues,

The recent global economic crisis is perhaps the greatest economic challenge humanity has faced in a century. In its wake, the inconsistencies and incoherence of the international economic system were more fully revealed, bringing greater urgency to its reform. This has been compounded by long-standing and emerging challenges. Underdevelopment, food security, climate change, energy security, and more - all must be addressed, and it must be done so in a holistic manner and through concerted efforts. We have a situation in our midst that is complex and overwhelming, as well as intimidating at the same time.

Our first priority is getting ready for UNCTAD XIII. I have full faith and confidence in our Prepcom Chair, Thailand. We must define, as part of the outcome document, a strategic direction for the future through which we will contribute to the broader global effort to realize real development for humanity. An important element in this is to ensure that UNCTAD plays a leading role in developing the thinking and ideas that will take us to 2015 and beyond.

We must then work and build upon this and contribute ideas to the preparatory process for Rio plus 20, which will be held a few months after our own conference. We must also look beyond the horizon and prepare for the other important events, two of them much closer to home: the 50th anniversary of both UNCTAD and the Group of 77 and China, in 2014.

In this context, the forthcoming Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 and China to be convened in Doha on 20 April 2012, takes on added meaning as an event unto itself. The outcome of our ministerial should therefore be forward looking. Our ministers should pronounce our direction for the next few years, highlighting the tasks that we must undertake to accomplish even greater undertakings. The ministerial should result in an outcome that would guide us to the 50th anniversaries of the Group and of UNCTAD, and our contributions to the broader global work towards 2015 and beyond.

The ministerial outcome should also guide us in harnessing and further developing the most valuable resource that we have, which is our people. The ministerial should result in concrete capacity-building initiatives to further develop our strong and visionary corps of negotiators to articulate and promote the objectives and priorities of the vast majority of humanity.

In practical terms, I believe that we should continue to build upon the Geneva Platform initiative begun by Ambassador Reyes (of Cuba), which formed the basis of the G-77 position for the UNCTAD XIII position paper prepared under Ambassador Maruping (of Lesotho), which served as the guiding light for Ambassador Manzou (of Zimbabwe) when he led the group in the last few difficult months.

Another priority is the Developedia, which should be further pursued with a view to a speedy operationalization and placed on a sustainable footing. I therefore look forward to continued and intensified work on this initiative, launched under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Reyes, further developed under Ambassador Maruping, and refined with the generous support of the Government of China.

I also look forward to launching an annual training course on strategic planning and negotiating skills for G-77 and China negotiators, to be held in Geneva and to include the participation of negotiators from capitals. The course should further develop the Geneva Chapter's strategic planning capacity, while strengthening the day-to-day negotiating skills of our experts.

These are of course my own modest ambitions for the outcome of our Ministerial Meeting, and I hope that by fully harnessing the collective wisdom and experience of the Group, we can be more ambitious and visionary. I therefore encourage the regional coordinators to sound out their constituencies in the next few weeks on how we can be more ambitious in terms of our outcome, and what other deliverables we can work towards, which will in turn be reflected in the outcome document.

Dear Colleagues,

This will be a challenging year. The conference will be a difficult process that I am confident will result in a good outcome. Immediately after the conference, we will face the important task of adjusting UNCTAD's work program to reflect the decisions we take in Doha. This is a good thing. Challenges bring out the best in the Group. I have seen it in my many years in diplomacy. I have seen it in my years in Geneva. I have therefore every confidence that we will continue to build, and stand proud in the finest traditions and achievements of the Group.

I am also confident that we shall surpass not only those challenges, but also these accomplishments, and to set new standards by which the Group will be judged. Not only in terms of our abstract and intellectual achievements, but more importantly in terms of what we have done for the equitable prosperity of all humanity.

Thank you.